If you’re anything like me, the first week back to work and school after the holidays carries some big expectations with it. After lounging around in our pajamas and going to bed too late, we suddenly have to get it all together again. Put on some real pants. Maybe some lipstick. Get to places on time. Maybe even the gym. And don’t forget homework and flash cards and spelling tests…
I had big plans to hit the ground running after a fun and relaxing holiday. Fluffier than I can tolerate and uncomfortable in my clothes, I declared a sugar fast for the whole family (they LOVE me!) and made plans to get back to work and into my routine at the local fitness training center.
Monday was awesome! I did my Bible study and set goals for the whole year. I worked out. I played with the kids. I was on it! Tuesday was pretty good. My knee was hurting a bit, so I decided not to exercise again until the next day. I ate fairly healthy and got some things done. Wednesday morning, I got up and got the kids off to school, but then I went back to bed.
Thursday and Friday were a blur of getting up to do only what was required of me as a parent and sleeping. All my energy was drained and I feared that Covid-19 had finally gotten me. I cancelled plans and felt very sorry for myself.
Then my doctor returned a call I’d put in about the kids and happened to ask how I’m doing. I told him about the exhaustion. He told me to take some extra Vitamin D. We talked for a few minutes and I realized that other than being very tired, I felt fine. I’d run out of one of my main supplements (CBD oil) and with the business of the holidays, hadn’t reordered more. I also had been very busy taking care of the kids and had neglected my daily Bible study and regular exercise. I’d been eating way too much sugar and my body was detoxing. 2020 was over and 2021 wasn’t starting off any better.
What happened during those three "lost days" was likely a combination of things that left me feeling drained in every way – physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.
For the last 10 months, I've spent a large portion of my mental and emotional energy analyzing every physical symptom I have and every hint from my children that the pandemic had hit our family. While I feel fairly confident that we would be physically okay if we do get it, the idea of passing it on to others doesn’t sit well with me. We also can’t live in total quarantine either.
I’ve tried to schedule things, but because of the overwhelming fear, I often cancel at the least sign of sickness. I’ve missed workouts because I want to be sure not to pass it to anyone in my training sessions. I’ve missed church services, friendly faces, community involvement, and so much more.
Scrolling through social media and reading news articles and updates from well-meaning friends who post about their symptoms and their concerns allows my fear to become nearly uncontrollable. I freeze up. Because I have three young children, I have been forced to push through those fears and keep going.
Last week, I hit a wall. While it's important to enjoy seasons of rest and relaxation, to stop pushing so hard every single day, I'm reminded that I must maintain a basic level of self-care. Many of the things I do to care for myself, things that keep anxiety and depression at bay, were completely neglected over the holidays. It allowed the perfect storm to rage.
Once I realized what was going on, my energy returned. (Knowledge is power, isn't it?)
I had a productive weekend. I got my sleep patterns back to normal. I reordered my CBD oil and found enough left in a bottle to ration out a few drops a day for a few days. I did my Bible study! I ate healthy meals and drank lots of water. The kids and I got almost all their homework done for the week ahead because we’ve added basketball to our schedule and that will be an adjustment.
Monday morning when the alarm went off, I caught myself laying in bed, analyzing how I felt and checking for signs of Covid. I didn’t even realize I was doing that every morning. I stopped myself, got up and went about my day as planned.
I did a little research for this blog and discovered that “pandemic fatigue” is a very real thing. I am not alone!
Those of us who have kids with complex medical needs, those of us who have been through personal health challenges, we know what it’s like to be on high alert all the time. The idea that I might have pandemic fatigue seems laughable. I’m an old pro at social distancing, disinfecting everything, evaluating every sign or symptom for an illness that might send us rushing to the hospital, etc. So why is this different?
I’ve given it a lot of thought.
Pandemic Fatigue is different from the residual trauma that impacts our lives after we’ve been through major illnesses or complex medical issues because it affects others. When I had skin cancer, I wasn’t afraid that I would give it to anyone else. When Redmond had pulmonary hypertension, it wasn’t contagious.
Pandemic fatigue means that I am in a constant state of alert. It's exhausting because the virus may or may not have symptoms. It may kill me and my loved ones. It may cause terrible and long-term effects. It may be similar to a sinus infection. ANYTHING could be this stupid virus!
It could attack someone I love and cause them to die, and I might not even know I have it. Even if everyone I know gets it or gets the vaccine, there’s no certainty as to how long the antibodies last. So, we still have to wear face masks and keep our distance?
All that fear and yet I’m supposed to handle it alone. Every interaction with another person jeopardizes their health.
Not only that, but it feels like everyone is fighting about whether or not they should wear face masks, whether or not they should quarantine, whether or not they should get the vaccine, whether or not they should get together for family reunions or weddings or funerals. My children used to see their grandparents nearly every day and for the last ten months, they haven’t been held or cuddled by them or even sat on their living room floor.
So, yeah. I’m tired. You probably are too.
I’m no expert here, clearly, but I’ve gathered a few tips to help us get through it. If you have any tips that have worked for you, please feel free to share them in the comments. Let’s get through this together.
1. No matter how hopeless it may seem right now, it IS going to get better. The world will not be this way forever.
2. At this point, you are probably well-educated enough about Covid-19 signs and symptoms. Protect your mental health by not indulging in reading or watching daily updates about it. Set aside one hour a week (or not) to look into anything new and then stop. That’s enough of that.
3. Stop thinking you have Covid every time you get a little ache or cough. Think first, “Before Covid, what would I think this is?” Then go from there.
4. Take good care of yourself. Get enough sleep, wash your hands, eat your veggies, avoid sugar, exercise, get some sunshine every day (unless you live in a place as dreary as I do right now, then take some Vitamin D supplements), and read your Bible. It helps.
5. Turn off the news. Seriously. Turn it off. The world will continue to go on just fine if you stop watching the news. If you must, set aside one hour a week to catch up on what you missed. Anything significant that happens will be reported to you by someone else.
I’d encourage you to take some CBD oil too, but hey, you do you. It works good for me. 😊
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